UK shoppers surprisingly ready to spend during heatwave, fashion stays strong
Very hot weather drove Britons to buy summer fashion, as well as goods for outdoor activities in July. But they also reined-in spending on foreign travel and eating out as the cost-of-living squeeze made itself felt, two surveys showed on August 9.
The British Retail Consortium said the value of total sales at its members (mainly big chains and supermarkets) rose 2.3% year on year, compared to falls in the each of the past three months. Like-for-like sales rose 1.6% after being down for the previous four months.
But while that looks good on the surface, given that the figures aren't inflation-adjusted and inflation is currently running close to double digits, it actually represents falling volumes overall.
"Consumer confidence remains weak, and the rise in interest rates coupled with talk of recession will do little to improve the situation," BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
Meanwhile, figures from payments giant Barclaycard looked surprisingly healthy.
Consumer spending (rather than just retail sales) in July rose 7.7%, boosted by sales of fashion, beauty and holidays in the UK. But spending on essentials where prices are rising fast was a big part of the increase as well, with utilities spending surging 44% and fuel rising 30%.
Barclaycard said spending on non-essential items rose 8% year on year, and 1.3% month on month, with a likely combination of inflation, the hot weather and summer and school holidays giving rise to increased discretionary spending across a range of categories.
Clothing retailers managed to beat that figure and saw particularly positive uplifts of 8.7% year on year and 4% on the month, while pharmacy, health & beauty stores also saw strong growth of 8.6% and 3.1% over the same timeframe.
The July heatwave also boosted sports and outdoor retailers, up 1.7% compared to June.
Despite Barclaycard also saying that spending on such areas as international travel and eating out was being cut by consumers, overall they seem to be feeling a little more confident about their household finances. While the level of 66% feeling better for July was lower than a year ago, it was higher than the 59% recorded in June.
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